Bangor. Mental connections do not include Africa. Mental connections include the Menai Straits (which appear on a surprising amount of ‘see before you die’ lists) and something about having a very long pier (or an under-performing bridge, point of view dependent). I think of Bangor and I think of the cold that northern coastal towns can claim as their own, those limpet outposts swathed in Atlantic mist, cliff-mothered and hunkered down against the indifferent abuse of sea and air. Music being a tenacious and contagious thing, a confounder of all expectations, prejudice be damned; something of an African spirit has been detected in Gwynedd. Across Wartski fields and the River Cegin a tightly coiled but deceptively laid back siren sings, blending the spirit of Nigeria ’70 with the several-strata-deep soul of Wales. Snare drums dry as dust crack and shuffle, kicking up the gravel of shakers and cowbells as the bass, taut and nimble, a dancer’s calves, shimmies and shakes; guitar and keys breathing hard and regular, horns throwing their heads back. A dancer under the sun or hot club lights, flashing bright in the darkness. Who’d have thought it?
Where Drymbago fall away from the afro-beat template is in their approach to vocals (this, you see, is the part where being Welsh starts to be more important again). Chants are eschewed for languorous melodies sung in Welsh and English, all in a beautiful register that seems to be the preserve of the Welsh only. I’m English, and forever a little jealous of the facility for warm, soulful melancholy that Welsh vocalists seem to have from birth. The result is a gentle, permeating sadness that serves to highlight the upbeat nature of every other element. It’s the disco gambit; make music that sounds superficially like the best night of your life but lace it with black threads (good examples include Dancing Queen, everything by Donna Summer and so much more). This is how it hits you, this is how it stays with you. Drymbago make supremely attractive, fun music, but they also tweak something inside you that tells you they are not just copying something they enjoy; this is music with roots that go deeper than you might expect. Call it Bangor-beat; moments of exceptional beauty and a constant, undeniable natural force to whip you to the dancefloor. JN